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 Post subject: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 5:02 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3160
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Happy Mid-Autumn festival, everyone - hope y'all haven't overdosed on mooncakes yet!

Typhoon Fanapi, the first major cyclone to hit the region this year, tore straight across the island last Sunday, leaving in its wake the most severe flooding the southern port city of Kaohsiung has seen in 50 years. Up here in the North, the damage wasn't quite as bad. After the storm had left for the Mainland Chinese coast in the late afternoon, the torrential rains subsided, but massive gusts still rendered it dangerous to venture out at all, let alone onto deserted mountain roads. But common sense is often left by the roadside when it comes to obsessions, so I went up into Yangmingshan National Park Sunday night for a two-hour walk to check what manner of herptiles the tempest had brought out. Needless to say - yet again, the animals proved to be much smarter than the average German bear, so I didn't see a single snake and only two (most likely mentally challenged) little tree frogs. Instead, I found myself hanging on to my wind-blasted headlamp while clambering over massive tree branches littering the road, fearing the next one to come down would smack me on the noggin any minute now.

Monday night, the winds had stopped, the county road crews had cleaned up the roads, the forest was nice and wet, and that's when I should have gone herping. But of course, work kept me from leaving (what idiot invented work anyway?), so I had to wait for my daily post-breakfast constitutional Tuesday morning. That day, the sun had already dried the roads when I arrived at 10 a.m., but the ditches were crammed to the rim with dripping leaves which the storm (and the road crews) had moved there. Subsequently, after twenty minutes of ditch patrol my pants looked like as if I'd gone fly-fishing in a raging river. But at least the air was clear and mild, the sun was shining, the dragonflies racing, and I even had the great fortune to spot a Taiwan Whistling Thrush hopping around the rocks in a mountain creek the typhoon had turned into a whitewater paradise. This is a very shy bird that skedaddles at the slightest sign of intrusion, and being able to observe it for a few minutes from atop the bridge spanning the creek was a real treat. Its purple-black plumage might not look like much in photographs, but it really comes alive with a thousand stunning variations of iridescence when the sun hits it from different angles. Hard to believe there are so many shades of dark purple!

After this pleasant intermezzo, I actually kind of loathed getting back in the ditch, because the going was pretty hard. But after another ten minutes of slogging through knee-deep, soggy leaf litter, without hopes of actually finding anything - the stuff was just TOO wet! - my mechanically digging snake hook suddenly came back up from the muck decorated with something small, wriggly, and palish-orange. At first glance, my memory banks rejected it as some kind of invertebrate, and I almost chucked it back into the mire, but then my brain finally stopped thinking in categories of diurnal and nocturnal quarry and agreed to identify the animal as a snake, albeit one that you're not supposed to find during the day, which was the cause for the confusion (A typical case of Christian Morgenstern's line "And thus in his considered view / what did not suit, could not be true".) Yes, that thing was a very young Red Bamboo Ratsnake, the Taiwanese subspecies Oreocryptophis porphyracea kawakamii, to be precise.

Some animals are much prettier as juveniles, and that's definitely the case here. Like with Oreocryptophis p. porphyracea, the wide black bands in juveniles gradually fade with age, until only two thin black stripes on the sides of the former bands remain. Also, the orange coloration of this particular individual was much lighter than usual, a nice and welcome variation. I realize that I had merely scared him out of his daytime leaf litter bed, but finding night snakes during the day, no matter which way, is always a huge kick for me. This species loves cool environs and is therefore pretty much invisible during July and August, only coming out in Spring and Autumn.

On the way back to my scooter I met an elderly lady and her son, in the woods to walk their Akita and have a nice creek side picnic. Seeing their obvious bewilderment over my mud-caked appearance, I decided to have a friendly little chat with them (if only to keep them from believing that they'd encountered the Taiwanese version of Sasquatch) and introduce my activities. At one point, I took the little snake out of the bag to demonstrate the beauty of their native fauna, and the old lady was so enamored with the beast that when it was time for me to take off, she stuffed my backpack with bananas, blueberry jam sandwiches, and a big box of maki sushi. Guess my future is secure: if the economy tanks again, I can always troll the woods, holding open-air talks about local reptiles for food......

BTW: Lest someone challenge my photographic skills - the little white specks on the animal are sand, not ISO-induced noise; likewise, the grainy bits on the head scales are actually lots of tiny dimples in the scales.

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I kinda got sick of the usual leaf litter background, so I decided on a large Giant Taro leaf (Alocasia macrorrhiza) for the background this time. I think the dark green provides a nice contrast for the orange snake.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 8:25 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:26 am
Posts: 3420
Location: Illinois
These are probably my favorite animal because of their magical abilities. Awesome photoshoot, thanks for sharing it.


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 9:58 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:05 pm
Posts: 809
Location: So Cal
Sweet..

nice photos


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 10:50 am 

Joined: June 10th, 2010, 11:57 am
Posts: 133
I like the way you pre-emptively defended a couple of aspects of the shots as though they were gonna look less than great and then dropped the best shots I've seen you post thus far! Fabulously shot stuff of a pretty sweet looking snake.


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 11:54 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 11:24 pm
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Location: Sweden
What a lovely little snake! Really love the Oreocryptophis species, so colorful!


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 12:29 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:31 pm
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Location: Florida, USA
What a stunner! Thanks.
:Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 2:16 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 1:32 pm
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Location: Houston, TX
These are, IMO, the best photos you have posted so far. Good job!

Later, Matt


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 4:40 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:11 pm
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Location: cape cod ma.
Beautiful snake Hans!! Thanks for the idea as well! I put a little lampropeltis triangulum on a hosta leaf and it is quite pleasing to me.. Thanks :thumb:
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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 4:53 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3160
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thank you for the nice comments, guys! I was also quite happy with the results, although the snake was constantly moving, and I had forgotten to rig up my usual mini-tripod.

I did a few things differently this time, and I learned a few important things:

1. ALWAYS re-sharpen the final JPEGS (if you've resized them already, then resharpen those last versions again). That's something I've never done before, and it really made a difference here.

2. f/16 is better than f/13, and for radical closeups, f/19 is often necessary. I know the dangers of these high numbers, but at these magnifications, sometimes there's no way around them.

3. Throw out all photos that don't look good at first glance. First impressions are really important - if you don't like it at first, it's not going to grow on you - or others.

That was your Daily Wisdom from the Man on the Mountain. Thank you for tuning in :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 22nd, 2010, 6:24 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 6:17 am
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Great pics! The green really makes it pop.

大图片!绿色确实使其弹出。


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 23rd, 2010, 1:02 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:08 pm
Posts: 542
Location: Montana
Nice photos Hans. I hope you keep posting all the Bamboo Ratsnakes you find, I never get tired of seeing those beautiful animals.

-Dell


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 24th, 2010, 6:43 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:40 pm
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MHollanders wrote:
These are, IMO, the best photos you have posted so far. Good job!

Later, Matt



Agreed. You can even see how your narratives are improving too. Must be all the practice with the magazine ;)

Absolutely stunning images of an absolutely stunning snake! I'm really trying to figure out a way to bring home some of the snakes that I find around here for a photo shoot of my own. Unfortunately being two days walk in the rain forest from a small village means that I probably won't be able to put it back the next day... C'est la vie. I'll have to settle for improving on the fly and admiring the work of those who seem to have it down pretty well on here.

Great shots Hans.

-Alex


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 24th, 2010, 12:24 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 5:29 pm
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Location: I love L.A.
Great looking snake. :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 24th, 2010, 5:15 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks again, guys!

Alex, can you give us some coords so we can get an idea about where exactly in Africa you are? How many and which interesting herps have you found so far? Isn't it high time for a report from the African bush? :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 25th, 2010, 2:46 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:40 pm
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Thanks again, guys!

Alex, can you give us some coords so we can get an idea about where exactly in Africa you are? How many and which interesting herps have you found so far? Isn't it high time for a report from the African bush? :-)


Surely :D I'm at 5.469457N,4.068604E right now (approximately) and have been stuck in this pseudo-capital city for the last month due to funding issues :roll: However, on Sunday I will finally move out to 5.699622N,7.103577E (VERY approximately) and go on my first mission into the largest protected chunk of Upper Guinean rain forest for 2 weeks. THEN you'll get a post (assuming of course that my internet is good enough to upload pics --- which recently has been asking a lot).

So far the herping has been alright. The people that I work with doing our mainly mammal surveys through the bush don't really like snakes. Well, to put that better, they fear snakes so much that they made me sign a waiver promising I wouldn't catch any snakes. I got them to change that to VENOMOUS snakes with the caveat that I could still photograph them ;) Sheesh. So when a Philothamnus irregularis (common vine/green snake) literally fell out of the tree in front of me and I ran to catch it, everyone started yelling. I could only snap a few pictures before I was forced to return to the training session. Other than that we stumbled on a juvenile common tortoise (Kinixys erosa), some cool leaf-litter frogs and some city lizards.

Moral of the story, wait about 2-3 weeks depending on political instability after the elections. After that I will have camped near a water source in the rain forest for about 10 days and will at least have some cool frogs to post. :sleep:

And since we're hijacking posts and making them about my personal life --- it's actually cheaper to fly from here to Paris and then to Hanoi than it is to fly from here to Madagascar. So, um, see you in April/May? ;) ;)

-Alex


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 25th, 2010, 2:57 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Good grief, what a nightmare! Thanks for the details!

Sure, come on over. May is better, April's too cold.


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 25th, 2010, 3:56 am 

Joined: August 30th, 2010, 1:39 pm
Posts: 103
Location: Columbia, MO
What an amazing looking snake. It's no wonder you took so many photos. Thanks a lot for doing that....and congratulations on such a great find.


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 25th, 2010, 10:12 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 6:25 am
Posts: 101
Location: Orange County, CA
What everyone else said, great photos, keep up the good work :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 25th, 2010, 10:19 am 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:06 am
Posts: 142
Awesome snake - Hans, when's the best time of year to herp Taiwan?


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 25th, 2010, 4:57 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Between May and October, May/June and Sept/Oct being the best months.


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 25th, 2010, 6:27 pm 

Joined: August 13th, 2010, 4:36 pm
Posts: 144
That is interesting re the months that are good for herping.

Have you ever tried flipping boards and tins and rocks in March and April the way that we do here in Ca?


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 25th, 2010, 6:30 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
There are no boards or tins in the jungle, neither can you place any, as the immensely dense underbrush makes access impossible. The only flat areas where you could place boards or tins are roads. There is no prairie, no grassland, and the few natural meadows are grown over with seven-foot elephant grass. That's why we walk the ditches.

That's why I mostly show just one or two snakes instead of a fistful. While the biodiversity might be ten times more dense than in California, it doesn't mean it's as easy to find.


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 30th, 2010, 8:26 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:45 am
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Location: One of the boys from Illinois
dunno how I missed this one, that's an awesome snake. Great photos.

And with a name like Oreocryptophis ('hidden cookie snake'?), where is the creme filling? :mrgreen:

-Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Orange Red Bamboo Ratsnake
PostPosted: September 30th, 2010, 5:54 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
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a name like Oreocryptophis ('hidden cookie snake'?)

Thanks for the loud laugh. Brilliant!


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